Super Bowl Sunday

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, an annual sporting spectacle in the US which is probably unique for being a sporting event watched by many people across the globe in spite of the fact that no other nation- apart from Canada- has anything resembling a credible league based on the sport, never mind much of a clue about the intricate rules, plays and strategies that define the game.
It is, of course, more than just a game, with a half-time show starring Bruce Springsteen and with all of the razzmatazz one comes to expect from American sporting occasions. Within the US, the Super Bowl annually attracts the highest viewing figures of any sporting or non-sporting event, which explains the ludicrously high price of commercial slots during the 3-4 hour spectacle, now sitting at $3 million for 30 seconds.But this year’s Super Bowl is special for me personally due to the fact that my hometown favourites, the Arizona Cardinals, have defied all of the odds and somehow navigated their way into the end of season finale.
If ever a sporting team deserved the moniker of the Bad News Bears, it is the Arizona Cardinals. Just over 20 years since upping and moving out of St. Louis to Phoenix, the Cardinals have had just two winning seasons, reaching the postseason on only two occasions and regularly posting losing seasons.
In a league designed –due to the gloriously communist-inspired Draft system of recruitment– to ensure that teams are always rising and falling in America, the Cardinals have stood out due to their remarkably consistent mediocrity.
Based in Phoenix, the Arizona Cardinals are typical of that uniquely American nomadic sporting team, having found a home in three cities in its 100 year plus existence. The Racine Cardinals (named after a Chicago street) changed names to the Chicago Cardinals when a team from the ‘real’ Racine was formed, then upped and shifted to St. Louis for a lengthy spell, before wandering west in the late 1980s to find a home as the Phoenix- then Arizona- Cardinals (the latter name-change was a desperate attempt to endear the team to Arizonans residing outside of the capital city.)
In a country of 300 million people spanning 50 states and literally hundreds of cities (and, if we were judging a city by north of Ireland criteria, then probably thousands of cities…) the nature of the American professional sporting organisations has meant that the vast majority of Americans simply do not have a ‘home’ team to support at professional level. There isn’t a multi-divisional set up with promotion/ relegation of teams in any of the major US sports; instead at football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey level, the professional game consists solely of the teams within the top (and only) tier. For instance, the New England Patriots represent not a city but an entire region of the country, yet the country’s second largest city, Los Angeles, has no home team- but that’s another story.
Phoenix is very much a new city- though its name is taken from the fact the settlement was built in the late nineteenth century on the site of a former native American tribe’s settlement. The demographic growth of the city has been little short of remarkable, with the post-war years witnessing a westward migration that would find hundreds of thousands settling in the relatively new city in the middle of the desert. A significant proportion of the four million plus residents of the ‘Valley of the Sun’ today were born and raised elsewhere, bringing their hometown sporting allegiances with them, making it difficult for a city with three of the four local major sports teams being less than two decades either in existence or as residents of the city.
For instance, the visit of the Chicago Cubs to the Valley in the heat of the summer baseball season always brings out waves of Midwest migrants and their descendants from the Windy City, who make up a sizeable community in the Valley.
The fact that the first playoff game just a matter of weeks ago wasn’t sold out until minutes before kick-off in the team’s splendid University of Phoenix Stadium (complete with retractable pitch and roof, no less) has been forgotten about as Phoenicians relish the taste of the sporting success which has long eluded Valley residents (with the notable exception of the already legendary 2001 World Series triumph of the city’s Diamondbacks against the Yankees.)
Facing the greenhorn Cardinals will be the formidable Pittsburgh Steelers, who are favoured to add to their Five Super Bowl titles in Tampa tonight due to their strong defense and considerably more impressive regular season performances. The Steelers are owned by Dan Rooney, who is favourite for the position of new US Ambassador to Ireland.
The two cities (and home states) couldn’t be more contrasting; Pittsburgh is, by American standards, an old city, still wearing its industrial badge as the ‘Steel City’ through the Steeler label, though the industry has long waned. Whilst Arizona was the 48th State to enter the Union in 1912, the US Constitution was written in Pennsylvania, and it was officially the second state to enter the Union in 1787.
Politically, Arizonans are amongst the most conservative in the States- and nowhere more so than in Phoenix- with only Clinton managing to persuade the state to vote Democratic at a Presidential election since 1952 (and at that only once); Pennsylvania, of course, remains one of the key presidential battlegrounds every four years, though Democrats have taken the state in the past five presidential elections.
The contrasting demographic profiles of the two States is illustrated through the Electoral College votes attributed to both states, with all that entails for the rising and falling political influence of either state- the Electoral College votes are translated into Congressional power, increasing or decreasing the number of House of Representative seats. Pennsylvania’s Electoral College voting power once stood at 38 votes; today it has fallen to 21, and will likely fall again after the 2012 Review which follows the 2010 Census. Arizona’s Electoral College vote has risen from four to ten since 1960, and will likely increase following the 2012 Review.
If the Cardinals do triumph, there will be a special mention for one former player who is probably the most revered player to have represented the team in the city of Phoenix, Pat Tillman. Tillman played varsity football for the Phoenix-based Arizona State University (ASU) and was drafted by the Cardinals, remaining with the team in spite of a multi-million dollar offer from the vastly superior St. Louis Rams during his time with the Cards.
After the September 11th attacks, Tillman gave up his lucrative contract playing professional football to enlist in the US Army along with his brother. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in a highly publicised and controversial ‘friendly fire’ incident in 2004. A statue dedicated to Tillman is located outside the team’s University of Phoenix Stadium.

  • Terrance, no Philip

    Wad’s dat aboot, eh?

    Canadian football features 12 a side teams, the only football along with Aussie rules to have even numbered sides, has less downs to move the ball ,and cannot be bothered to explain the rules to the Americans they hire which leads to the odd rouge being scored.

    And in 1994 famously ran a bigger balls campaign despite having just changed over to the regulation NFL size. Maybe the proof reader was busy looking for treasure!

  • anything happening in Belfast tonight worth talking about?

    I seem to remember the student’s union doing a lock-in

  • edward


    Aye, Canadian football is far superior to the girl pants wannabe football the americans play. Maybe some day they will man up and learn to play the game properly

  • Tyroneabu

    There was a far better and more historic game in Dublin last night.

    Up Tyrone!

  • NCM

    Consumer capitalism at its worst. I’m having a beer and playing chess instead.

  • The Raven

    Actually, I’m sorry to be missing a Bruce performance. As for the sport…well…

  • blinding

    Bruce put on a good show but I thought his singing? has deteriorated a lot since his hayday

    It lacked the emotion and inspiration it once had
    Comes to us all I suppose!!

  • RG Cuan

    Watched the Super Bowl for the first time last night and, despite it being semi-intriguing at the start, overall the game is all hype and no play. Our football and rugby beat it any day, and even some soccer matches are better.

    And while most countries play their national anthem at big sporting events, the Americans sure do go OTT and the Army presence is uncalled-for.

  • The Reincarnation of Paul Revere’s Horse

    Well, Im at work today, very tired but well worth it. Just like last year, it was another great Superbowl. Some really great performances and drama upon drama. Feel bad for the Cardinals but Pittsburgh weren’t going to be denied.

    Thought it was over when Harrison intercepted Warner in the endzone to return it the whole way back. But Larry Fitzgerald finally came to life to turn the game on its head but Big Ben and Holmes produced some awesome plays to reclaim the lead and the Vince Lombardi trophy.

    I find some peoples attitude in Britain and Ireland very strange towards the NFL. I dont mind people not liking it but people really go out of their way to point out their dislike of it or even object to it even being televised or played in Wembley.

    Another thing that people struggle with for some reason is the rules, which I find odd, after watching about 2 games and a few games of John Madden Football on my Commodore Amiga i had it all figured out.

    And its really worth that little bit of effort. Last nights game was as I said earlier was drama upon drama, incedible displays of athleticism. It will live long in the memory just like last years upset by Eli Manning and the Giants over the dominating New England Patriots.

    And thats not to mention any of the razzmatazz that some people seem to get caught up in.

    Its all about the game for me and the rapidly growing fan-base in Britain and Ireland! The quickly expanding BAFL and IAFL are proof of this!

  • Any chance of any useful links to Cheerleaders?

  • Earnan

    They really need to change the Super Bowl to Saturdays. Coming to work hungover as well as dealing with the after effects of eating 20+ wings is not something I enjoy doing every Monday after the Big Game.

    I’m not exactly sure where all the hatred against football is coming. It is an entertaining game, although if you don’t know anything about the rules or strategy I could see why you don’t bother with it. There is no doubt that if you put someone like Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Palamalu or Edgerrin James on a Gaelic Football field or Rugby field they would probably run rings around most of the players.

    As for last night: I think the referees called a lot of questionable (at best) penalties, all of which seem to have went against the Cardinals. Also, the quantity of penalties called seemed to interrupt the flow of the game. But, all in all, it was a thrilling (if not well played) game and that is all you can ask for. Plus, most of my prop bets paid out so I wasn’t too down that the hated Steelers won.

    The commercials were subpar this year.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Paul Revere

    There’s nothing as pathetic as Little Irelanders/ Englanders when it comes to hostility to sports- I long ago learnt to ignore it.

    This was another great Super Bowl- long gone would appear to be the days of the NFC blowouts of AFC opposition that kept me awake in my teen years.

    The Cards showed great fight in rallying back to the brink of a famous victory- I guess that touchdown interception really was the difference in the end.

    Here’s hoping the Cards can get it together for next year, though Leinart might just have to step up to the plate now as I don’t know if Warner will have it in him for another year at the helm.

  • The Raven

    “Bruce put on a good show but I thought his singing? has deteriorated a lot since his hayday”

    First night of the new tour…

    Be at the RDS on July 11, and we’ll see….

  • latcheeco

    Mike check out the Saintsations website

  • Thank-you.

    Overnite i’ve become a New Orleans Saints supporter.

    Why can’t the Glens do something similar?

  • Ken Lay